A man who was the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories regarding the U.S. Capitol riot has been given a one-year probation sentence for his involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack carried out by a group of fellow Donald Trump supporters. Ray Epps, a former resident of Arizona, had faced death threats that forced him into hiding. In September, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was not sentenced to any jail time.
Furthermore, there are no travel restrictions imposed on him during his probation period, although he will be required to complete 100 hours of community service. Chief Judge James Boasberg delivered the sentence via video conference, as Epps was not physically present in the Washington, D.C. courtroom.
When Ray Epps urged people to trespass inside the Capitol, he knew it was a crime because he had an outstanding warrant for criminal trespass in Pennsylvania from 2015.
He wasn’t the only one removed from the FBI suspects list – so what really happened on J6? pic.twitter.com/oIbaklzqh5
— Truth In Media (@Truth_InMedia) November 20, 2023
Epps’ sentencing occurred in the identical establishment where Trump was present for an appeals court hearing, while his legal team contended his immunity from prosecution regarding allegations of orchestrating the overturning of the 2020 election results, which he lost.
Conspiracy theories suggesting that Epps, aged 62, was a covert government operative who instigated the Capitol attack to ensnare Trump supporters were amplified by Fox News Channel and other conservative media platforms. Epps initiated a defamation lawsuit against Fox News in the previous year, asserting that the network was responsible for disseminating unfounded accusations against him.
Ep. 61 This the smartest, best informed account of what actually happened on January 6th. pic.twitter.com/U9yCWRVJSd
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) January 6, 2024
Federal prosecutors have supported Epps’ strong refutations regarding his alleged involvement as a government plant or FBI operative. They affirm that Epps’ affiliation with the government was limited to his service in the U.S. Marines from 1979 to 1983, and he has never held any official position or acted as an agent for the government.
According to his attorney, Epps and his spouse were compelled to sell their assets and enterprises and depart from their residence in Queen Creek, Arizona, as a result of the distressing experience.
“He enjoys no golf, tennis, travel, or other trappings of retirement. They live in a trailer in the woods, away from their family, friends, and community,” attorney Edward Ungvarsky wrote in a court filing.
Despite the Justice Department charging Epps with involvement in the January 6 siege, the internet-driven allegations that disrupted his life continue to endure.
“Fear of demented extremists has no apparent end in sight so long as those who spread hate and lies about Mr. Epps don’t speak loudly and publicly to correct the messaging they delivered,” Ungvarsky wrote in a court filing.
Epps, who has held various occupations such as a roofer, handyman, farmer, and venue operator, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on restricted grounds. This offense carries a maximum penalty of one year of imprisonment. The prosecution recommended a six-month jail term for Epps, while his defense lawyer sought six months of probation without any incarceration.
According to Ungvarsky, Epps traveled to Washington on January 6th to peacefully protest the certification of Joe Biden, a Democrat, as the winner of the Electoral College vote over Donald Trump, a Republican.
However, the prosecutors allege that Epps not only encouraged the mob to storm the Capitol but also actively participated in violent acts. They claim that he assisted other rioters in pushing a large metal-framed sign towards a group of officers and engaged in a forceful collective effort to bypass a line of police officers, likening it to a rugby scrum.
“Even if Epps did not physically touch law enforcement officers or go inside of the building, he undoubtedly engaged in collective aggressive conduct,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon wrote in a court filing.
Epps turned himself in to the FBI 48 hours following the riot, upon discovering that authorities were actively seeking to identify him. He willingly participated in interviews conducted by both FBI agents and the House committee responsible for investigating the events of the January 6 insurrection.
Initially, the government chose not to pursue charges against Epps in 2021, as the FBI’s investigation into his actions on January 6 yielded insufficient evidence to support criminal charges, as stated by Ungvarsky. Epps is not implicated in unlawfully entering the Capitol or participating in any acts of violence or destruction on that day.
“Mr. Epps was one of many who trespassed outside the Capitol building. Through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, most of those persons will never be charged,” the defense lawyer wrote.
More than 1,200 individuals have faced charges for federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Out of these, over 900 have either pleaded guilty or been convicted through trials overseen by a judge or jury. Around 750 rioters have received sentences, with a majority of them being subjected to some form of imprisonment.
In the past, Epps held a leadership position in the Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers, an extremist group known for its anti-government stance. However, he distanced himself from the group a few years prior to the January 6 attack.
Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, along with other members, was found guilty of seditious conspiracy for planning to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power from Trump to Biden after the 2020 election. Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison last year.
Despite attempts to reach out for comment, Fox News has not responded to messages from The Associated Press regarding Epps’ lawsuit.